14/04/2008/2:11 pm, Rock Sound, Eleuthera
We're still here in Rock Sound! The wind... she blows.
Jim, Jim, Nancy and I rented a car to go exploring on Monday and we covered the area from Governor's Harbour to East End Point, some of it on fine Bahama roads and some of it on not-so-fine Bahama roads (aka potholes and ruts that provide excellent challenges for would be off road drivers). First off, we headed north, cruising through pretty towns like Tarpum Bay and South Palmetto Point (not as enticing as Rock Sound, but interesting). Governor's Harbour has lots of facilities - we filled our water cans at the Government Buildings on Cupid's Cay, checked e-mail from the parking lot at the grocery store, bought wonderfully sweet pineapples, and then drove up along gorgeous little streets in search of the pink sand beach. It took a few starts, reverses and alternate routes but we found it. A development called French Leave seems to have taken over the beach front and one road was blocked by a gate and another road had a pothole that was just too deep to get through, but the third one took us there. The beach was gorgeous - similar to the pink sand of Harbour Island - very few people there - tiny waves rippling gently in over wide sand bars that were streaked with the darker pink of crushed coral. It felt just as though my feet were being washed with some spa-like concoction of water and powdered stone. The sun was hot, the breeze gentle, the water turquoise, the sky blue. Aaahh - bliss.
As we drove through narrow streets past houses with inviting porches and bougainvillea cascading over fences, we discovered Tamarind - the house Jim's sister and her family rented last year when they enjoyed an Eleutheran beach holiday. There are many houses with rental signs on them and this would be a great place to make a base for some land travel. The chartbook shows poor holding for boats but Jim (Solitaire) talked to friends who had success in the area.
Lunchtime found us at Papa George's in Tarpum. George makes pizzas from scratch and was an enjoyable conversationalist as we savoured them. He recounted memories of the Junkanoos of his youth, and told us of his dual career of writing books and making pizzas.
With stomachs full, we roared off to the south. Once again, it took some determined questing to find some of the beaches. We stopped near Bannerman Town where Princess Cruise Lines have a land base. The beach around the corner was small but pretty and Nancy and I picked up some shells. Jim (Solitaire) steered us skillfully down treacherous tracks to the Lighthouse and stunning beach at East End Point. It was really worth the searching - we were surprised to see two other rental vehicles at the end of the track but when we followed the path to the beach we could see why they made the effort. Limestone cliffs have been eroded to show beautiful layering and caves; the reefs are close for snorkeling when the wind allows; the beaches serene for lying about. We chatted with Rob and Kim, here on vacation and heard from them that the fishing is good too. While the lighthouse itself was not of the picturesque variety, the view was superb.
Several boats relocated over to the western side of the bay where the waves were calmer, but because we wanted to stay close to town we opted to stay put on Tuesday. The wind came up, the waves rolled by and Madcap bucked up and down a bit. Neither of us went ashore because we'd have gotten wet for sure. Jim exercised his creativity in making a wonderful DVD presentation of some of our pictures, while I did my creative bit in the cockpit with my basket weaving. The second basket was far superior to the first one!!
It was much chillier Tuesday night - both of us put on long pants for dinner in the cockpit. That was a "clean out the fridge" success story. Some additions of curry, peppers, tomatoes and fresh pineapple to leftover rice with sautéed plantains and mango chutney on the side made for a delicious new combination that I'll put in the "keepers" file! The night was rough with winds steadily upwards of 25 knots from WNW but the anchor held and we both managed to get some sleep despite the noise of waves crashing on the bow. On Wednesday, the sun was out, the wind has dropped to 15 NW; the temperature was 21C when I got up, and rose steadily through the day.
We'll most likely stay here till Friday to give the swell a chance to drop before heading off to the northern end of Eleuthera and then on to make the crossing to the Abacos. The timing for that is still up in the air (literally and figuratively) since we don't see any point in beating into a strong wind or plowing through 10-foot swells. This is a pretty place with a fine company of cruisers and welcoming Rock Sounders.
13/04/2008/3:50 pm, Rock Sound, Eleuthera
This is the first time we've gotten connected since we left George Town so all of a sudden there are five new posts!!
The southern end of Eleuthera is described as a whale's tail and we arrived off one fluke of it midway through Friday morning after an early start from Little San Salvador. It took several more hours until we were securely anchored just off the town in big and beautiful Rock Sound. That is a good-sized whale's tail. We kept the engine on, but used our main and yankee sails to good advantage, averaging 6.8 knots all the way.
Our friends Nancy and Jim (Solitaire) kindly invited us over for a fine evening of getting reacquainted over delectable treats and a cool drink. We last saw them in Little Farmers Cay, and they've been here for a few days already so besides catching up on each other's news, we received lots of tips on places to visit.
Accordingly, the four of us headed to the dinghy dock on Saturday morning for a walk-about. It is amazing to see real streets and streetlights. The town is laid out in blocks and we explored many of them. At our stop at the Ocean Hole, nicely landscaped in a park setting, a fellow zipped by on a bicycle, turned a wide circle because he had no brakes and slowed to a stop. He produced sapodillas to sample - and of course we purchased some from him. We plucked tamarind pods from the trees at the park and sucked on the sticky sweet-sour flesh as we walked. We hiked to the top of the hill where we could look out over the whole bay and pulled a couple of the long pods from Poinciana trees to rattle as we traveled.
As we arrived back in the centre of town again, we met up with George and Nancy (Trumpeter) who let us in on the secret of scrumptious BBQ chicken or pork at the Apple Hole Deli - available only on Saturdays. We hustled down there and were fortunate enough to get some (when it's gone, it's gone). It was absolutely finger lickin' good chicken - the best we've ever had.
I bought a new denim skirt - strange thing, my last one has mysteriously shrunk - and Nancy and I browsed through the well-stocked shops. The grocery store is large and has whatever one might want. There is a NAPA store (closed unfortunately so we'll visit it on Monday) and a shop with delicious pineapple rum liqueur among other bottles of well-priced libations.
In the evening the cruisers (up to 15 or 16 from the 6 here on Friday night) gathered at the gazebo in the north end of the anchorage. It was a terrific spot - left from a failed restaurant that looks as if it might be getting revived - and a terrific time too. We were delighted to see Deb and Paul (Werplayin) again as well as a number of new folks: Liberty, Dreamer, Sam the Skull, Flamingo, Tabby Cat, Interlude, and Eridanus (with us in Fernandez Bay) as well as Trumpeter and Solitaire. Ten Years After and Summer Breezes were here in the harbour too but I don't think I met them - after a few rounds of introductions I kind of lose track!
We decided to attend the Methodist Church on Sunday morning - along with Cathie and Tom (Interlude), Jim and Nancy (Solitaire) and George and Nancy (Trumpeter). It was a very nice service with some familiar hymns and a visiting preacher - from Nassau but visiting there from England. He was a fine storyteller and although we didn't hear the gospel singing we were hoping for, we did find the service meaningful and the Rock Sound people wonderfully warm and welcoming.
The South wind has come up a bit and even though several boats have relocated, we've opted to stay put because the fetch isn't uncomfortable and we like being close to the dock. We've reserved a car tomorrow and will go exploring with Nancy and Jim. We're so glad they are avid explorers too!
11/04/2008/3:46 pm, Little San Salvador
It was an exciting day on the sea!
We set off from Fernandez Bay toward the tiny island of Little San Salvador, now owned by the Holland American Cruise line but still available to cruisers. Jim had his yoyo fishing line out as well as his rod and reel. That simple little yoyo - a line wrapped around a plastic circle - with a shiny pink and silver lure and a big hook kept attracting some big fish. Unfortunately, even though JD the hunter/gatherer pulled in 4 - count 'em - FOUR fish, they were all barracudas and we had to let them go. The thing with barracudas is that they are known to be carriers of ciguatera (a naturally occurring toxin that passes through the food chain - symptoms are numbness and tingling followed by nausea and vertigo, or paralysis in the worst case scenario.) It's rarely fatal but unpleasant enough that we don't want it! Some of the books say a fish under 5 pounds is OK; other books say as long as it is less than the length of one's arm from elbow to finger tips, it's OK, but we did not want to take the risk.
We operated as a team; Jim reeled in the fish - and it was exciting. Barracudas are silver and shiny and heavy enough to feel good on the line. They have very sharp teeth too so Jim donned heavy work gloves, I held the fish up out of the water while he grabbed it and removed the hook from its cheek and then eased it overboard and into the sea again. Each one stopped thrashing around while he was working the hook out so although the teeth looked ominous, they weren't threatening, and Jim had his lures and hooks to use again. While we wished for a fish for dinner, it was still good to catch something!
It was while Jim was sitting on the starboard deck holding his fishing pole that I noticed a dolphin leaping on our starboard side. Soon, there were 6 or 7 of them frolicking back and forth under our bowsprit as we plowed along through the water. We were doing about 6.5 knots and these beautiful creatures just played along with us. We had heard of such a thing but had never experienced it ourselves - and let me tell you, it was an experience.
They honestly seemed to be playing. They would crisscross ahead of the boat - just inches from the bow - run alongside, veer off to surface and then roll over as they crossed in front of us again. Their timing was impeccable and their ability to swim together and with the boat just amazing. We stood out on the bowsprit and could look straight down at them as they played in front of us. It lasted about 10 minutes and then they gradually peeled away - to look for another source of entertainment or perhaps to have a more leisurely swim. We were just thrilled with this display and it seemed pretty dull to go back to fishing and navigating again.
In due course we arrived at Little San Salvador, crossing behind the gigantic Carnival Imagination that was anchored off shore, and nosing in to drop our anchor in the NW corner of the bay. We watched the "boat people" play on the beach for the rest of the afternoon - riding horses, swimming, sunning, sailing hobie cats and pedaling pedal boats. Once the last launch delivered them back to the mother ship, we headed ashore ourselves to stroll along the beautiful crescent beach and marvel at the infrastructure here. There must be money in cruises because there was no shortage of shore facilities for them. This cay was bought by Holland American as a daytime playground for their cruising passengers, and although it must be felt as a loss by the small boat cruisers who loved the place for its remoteness, it is still a fine stopover on the route north to Eleuthera. We read that the firm is happy to have boats anchor here because it adds local colour and that the shore staff is polite and friendly. That was our experience. We roamed all along the beach, chatted with the three fellows on a 4-wheeler who were doing a last sweep of the beach to make sure no one was left behind, and generally nosed around the place. Despite the crowds who had been there all day, I found two really pretty shells that I hadn't seen before and we stopped to gaze at a tiny owl who swiveled his head almost all the way around as he gazed back at us.
We opened Juan's fabulous Medalla Real Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and savoured every drop as we watched the sun go down. It seemed oh so appropriate that it was a brilliant orange sun that sank through the clouds and then at the very last moment turned inarguably green as it dropped below the horizon - my very first green flash!